Now an autonomous region of Finland, the 6,700 islands that form the Åland Islands archipelago have genuine historical significance for Scandinavia. Straddling the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia, sprawling across the sea between Sweden and Finland, the Åland Islands’ location made them an important strategic location, particularly in maritime history.
Whilst the islands’ economy is still largely dependent on shipping, tourism is gradually increasing in importance to the region, with the wider world beginning to discover a beautiful and fascinating part of Northern Europe.
The Åland Islands remain a province of Finland, but they are granted almost total autonomy and, whilst both Swedish and Finnish culture is prevalent across the archipelago, Åland has a fully developed identity of its own.
The majority of the archipelago is uninhabited, with 90% of the population living on Fasta Åland, the main island on which capital city Mariehamn is located. An important port that serves destinations as diverse as Stockholm, Turku and Tallinn, the city is very much the hub of the Åland Islands.
Visitors to the islands are likely to be well prepared for the stunning seascapes and rugged landscape, but this small Finnish archipelago also has a burgeoning culinary reputation that visitors to the region can discover.
Eco-conscious tourists in the Åland Islands will find that local cuisine is based almost entirely on fresh produce from Åland, with much of it eaten raw. The islands’ climate is ideal for producing a wide range of fruit and vegetables, with much of the produce used in dishes that can be purchased in Åland restaurants having been grown on the islands.
This is also the case with fish, which is likely to be caught locally at extremely fresh – perhaps unsurprisingly, given the archipelago’s location. Pike and perch are particular favourites amongst local Åland Islanders and are once again likely to be served raw alongside locally produced vegetables.
If there is one dish that defines the Åland Islands, however, it is the pancake, something that tends to delight sweet-toothed visitors to this small archipelago. Particularly popular with island explorers looking to recharge their batteries before heading back out on the trails, the Åland pancake is filling and calorie heavy, but unsurprisingly delicious.
Made with semolina, the pancake can be served with a variety of toppings, to suit both sweet and savory preferences. Stewed prunes are a particular favourite among locals, but locally grown fruit provides a fine alternative. The climate of the islands allows for apples and strawberries, in particular, to grow perfectly – before being served with cream!
Photos: [all via Bigstockphoto.com].